Albert's Memorial. Image shows from L to R: Harry (David Jason), Frank (David Warner). Copyright: Granada Productions.

Albert's Memorial

Press Clippings

This review contains spoilers...

Albert's Memorial was a bodysnatching road movie starring David Jason, David Warner and Michael Jayston as Second World War veterans who, 45 years earlier, had abjectly failed to rescue a young German girl from murderous Soviet troops. When Jayston's character dies, the remaining two must fulfil his dying wish and bury their comrade in the same field outside Berlin where the atrocity occurred.

Which is one hell of a great opening for a drama. Unfortunately, this was one corpse that had been embalmed in saccharin, for the story was soon floundering beneath a wave of sweetness and sentimentality. The jokes were of the "Quiet, you'll wake the dead!" variety, and the plot had holes big enough to drive a hearse and cart through.

My patience finally expired when the mystery hitch-hiker sharing their road to redemption turned out to be the ghost of the murdered German girl.

It is a tribute to the talents of Warner and Jason that they actually succeeded in delivering very moving performances among all the unadulterated tosh.

Harry Venning, The Stage, 20th September 2010

This review contains spoilers...

Albert's Memorial looked initially like an old geezer's comic road movie, enlivened with that invaluable prop for farce - a dead body. Then it darkened into something quite sombre with the revelation that the unresolved secret all three men had carried with them since the war involved their failure to save a young woman from a violent death at the hands of Russian soldiers. And then it squandered the respect it had earned for its daring by adding a preposterous and entirely wishful supernatural ending, with the revelation that the enigmatic hitchhiker the two men had picked up while crossing the Channel was in fact the dead girl's spirit, returned to absolve them of their guilt. I had been planning to make a mild note of protest at the plot's dependence on coincidence, but in the light of that later twist it seems a bit pointless.

Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent, 13th September 2010

This one-off drama might not have had the sexiest pitch ever: two World War II veterans honour their friend's dying wish by taking his body for burial in Germany. However, a cast led by David Jason, a nice splash of dark humour and the skilful unravelling of a mystery made it well worth watching.

The film kicked off with the dying Albert (Michael Jayston) asking his mates Harry (Jason) and Frank (David Warner) to bury him on the hillside near Berlin where they met the advancing Russian army. However, it was clear that the three men had a secret: something happened there that had haunted them ever since.

With Albert's death, the film edged into more farcical territory. Harry and Frank stole his body to prevent his cremation, and before long he was boxed up and strapped to the top of Harry's London cab for the road trip. Along the way, with the intervention of Vicki (Judith Hoersch), a young German hitch-hiker, Harry and Frank gradually came to terms with the events of 1945.

The mystery unfolded quite nicely, with clever editing reflecting the way memory works and inviting the viewer to piece together the tragic events. However, despite strong performances from Jason and Warner, the film relied too much on Last of the Summer Wine-style capers and creaky banter.

Worse of all, the plot leant on too many coincidences and contained too many moments that strained credibility. And after a moving climax, the clumsy revelation in the final minutes overshadowed the touching human drama of old men coming to terms with the past. A disappointing end to an otherwise engaging drama.

Tom Murphy, Orange TV, 12th September 2010

I wish I could tell you that in David Jason's latest ITV1 drama, he plays a maverick computer hacker on the run from the Russian mafia, or a dashing international pianist preparing for one last recital before he retires. But of course, he's nothing of the sort. We know the kinds of characters Jason plays, and we love him for them.

Tonight it's Harry, a lovable London cab driver whose memories of the second world war are stirred when an old friend dies, leaving behind a bizarre request. Jason is an executive producer on the project, and it's his kind of drama, a touching, whimsical portrait of old age and its ghosts.

He's ably supported by David Warner as Harry's mate Frank. The two of them are surprised when their friend Albert calls them to his death bed and asks them to bury him in a field in Germany where the three men shared an unspecified trauma in 1945, one that bound them together, even though "We haven't had the guts to deal with it since."

What follows is a gentle caper involving a black cab, a coffin and a trip to the continent. There's a good deal of old-boy bickering between the leads, some mild black comedy and, underneath it all, a sad fable of war, death and memory.

David Butcher, Radio Times, 12th September 2010